Tuesday 12 December 2017

Run, fat bitch, run

Ruth Field on why everyone should run

Library image. Photo: Getty Images
Library image. Photo: Getty Images

Ruth Field

My husband and I were lucky enough to be able to take a sabbatical from work and ended up living in south-west France, where my husband began to write a novel and I struggled to paint (having always fancied myself as an artist).

I had an old easel which we had driven over from London and loads of canvases and a box of acrylic paints.

Try as I might, the artist within would not emerge. I spent hours staring at a blank page and yet further hours splashing paint on canvas after canvas, only to abandon them halfway through.

I complained to Olly that being pregnant with the twins meant that my back couldn't take the standing still for hours on end, but, the truth is, I was just making excuses for myself.

The paintings were rubbish and I felt completely uninspired -- I couldn't understand why I could not translate the paintings in my head on to the board.

It was so much harder than I had imagined.

I felt really defeated. So, I devoured novels, pregnancy books and an entire course of learning French with Michel Thomas CDs, but my French, like my art, turned out to be pretty woeful.

I became extremely frustrated, haunted by future glimpses of a life without having this opportunity, this stretch of time to exercise my artistic side -- possibly ever again.

I threw myself into all things culinary, wrote up recipes, experimented with soufflés, tarte tatins, cassoulets, and all sorts.

I became quite proficient in the kitchen -- Olly was thrilled at this new passion of mine, which he was most keen to nurture.

He encouraged me to write down the best recipes and he would award stars; five stars being the best. He was clever in awarding many four stars and even four-and-a-half stars, but never five to ensure I kept trying harder.

To keep fit, I went on long rambles through the beautiful countryside every day, and did some pregnancy yoga, having been told by my GP not to run while pregnant with the twins.

"How many words, Olly?" was my constant refrain. He is never, ever going to get this novel written if he doesn't hurry up, I thought every day with increasing desperation.

I was particularly irritated that I was lugging myself and the twins about daily to keep fit and that he wasn't exercising at all.

It drove me insane, especially because he had this incredible countryside in which to run. I became convinced that if he would just embrace the practice of running, he would find writing the novel so much easier.

Anyway, I pestered, I cajoled and I nagged until, one fine spring morning, he got up and announced that he was off for a run.

I nearly fell off my chair. I watched him go, simultaneously green with envy and glowing with pride while barking out orders: "Go really, really, really slowly!"

Sure enough, the writing started to flow -- he would tell me how clear his head became when running and he was able to dream up scenes while jogging through the valley.

He started drinking gallons of water and caring about his body -- even his belly started shrinking. We took photos of his diminishing and my rapidly expanding belly.

And he told me to stop nagging him and to write it all down instead, as he thought it was quite funny that I was obviously so passionate about it.

Finally, a project that I could get my teeth into.

It flowed so easily, all this rage and advice, and then more rage and advice about how to run and how to stay slim.

So I have him to thank for 'Run Fat Bitch Run'.

It only exists because he told me to write it -- the thought would never have crossed my mind, and it was a huge pleasure from start to finish.

Empowered is a word that perfectly encapsulates how I feel about my life when I am running regularly. I operate at a much higher level of efficiency, both mentally and physically, and I look so much better, and feel so much more alive and enthused about everything.

In short, I feel more in control of a life that got completely out of control since having twin sons 16 months ago.

The most unhappy and inefficient I have ever been was during the nine months after having the babies when I was not running or doing any form of exercise. I was so tired and down and unhealthy and never gave myself a break.

I now see running as, among other things, an essential break from the twins and family life -- some 'me' time.

The huge bonus is that through running I am able to enjoy the babies much more and feel re- energised as a wife and mother.

So whatever happens in my life, however great an upheaval it may be -- no matter how difficult, no matter how superficially tired I have become, and no matter how little time I have available -- I will continue to run at least three times a week, to keep my sense of self, and to allow my body and my mind to function as well as they possibly can.

Every time you run, you win. So begin winning today.

'Run Fat Bitch Run' by

Ruth Field is out now

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